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History Of Rastafari In Antigua

The Rastafari community in Antigua and most of the other Caribbean islands are offshoots of the larger and more established Rastafari movement in Jamaica. Branches of the culture first emerged in Antigua at the beginning of the seventies during the black power movement led by Tim Hector, the founder, and leader of the ACLM.

While Tim Hector and the ACLM were gaining support for their black people's advancement message, there was a new cultural revolution and spiritual consciousness manifesting. It started with a small group of Ganjah users around the island who subsequently formed part of the first Rastafari community in Antigua and Barbuda.

As the Rastafari culture gradually spread it's way across Antigua and the wider Caribbean, many of its followers embraced the ideology and religious belief of the Rastafarians in Jamaica. They claimed that Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is the true king of kings, Lord of Lords, and God of Gods.

Unlike most Jamaicans who saw the Emperor when he visited the island, very few people in Antigua and Barbuda knew anything about Emperor Haile Selassie. It was not until the emergence of Rastafari on the Island. Most Antiguans never even heard the name, much less acknowledging him as God.

The claim of Selassie's divinity was not accepted by many in the emerging Rastafari community. It was fully embraced and acknowledged by those who believed. Not surprisingly, the concept was rejected by those who believe in the Christian religion definition of God described in the Bible.

There's a clear distinction between man and God for allot of Rastafarians who strongly believe God is not a man of flesh and blood, but It's not so clear cut for others! There are many Rastafarians who acknowledge that God is a living man, and they are those that worship and praise Emperor Haile Selassie as their divine God, so It was hard to reconcile the ideological differences given the divergence of religious beliefs.

It was apparent that the Rastafari movement was struggling to define itself in the conspicuous absence of general guiding philosophy and established doctrine. A different interpretation of biblical scriptures and unflinching religious beliefs was creating division in the Rastafari community.

Cracks begin to appear in the foundation of the movement over the ostensible divinity of Emperor Haile Selassie. It was evident that the divide was widening. The ideological differences led to the gradual erosion of unity amongst the brotherhood and the emergence of neutral, moderate, and extreme fractions in the Rastafari community.

The oneness, love, and respect that existed at the beginning of the cultural revolution begin to evaporate slowly as one group tries to assert authority over the other, and some proclaiming they are the only genuine and authentic Rastafarians.

Part two of this article is a brief synopsis of the different Rastafarian groups that existed in Antigua during the 1970s, and 80s.